When we wear the bib at work, we are acting in service to ourselves. We are looking out for ourselves, our comfort, our security. Our wants, needs, and interests.
When we wear the apron at work, we are acting in service to others. We are looking out for our colleagues, our team, our institutions. The others’ wants, needs, and interests.
Two key questions about our choosing to wear the bib or the apron at work:
- Do you think you choose to wear the bib or the apron most consistently at work? and;
- Which would your colleagues say you choose to wear most consistently at work?
It’s easy to attribute the most generous and altruistic motives to our own behavior. “Of course I wear the apron more than the bib at work,” might be a knee-jerk, first thought. Like a gambler who finds it difficult to retell the times she lost, it may be difficult for us to identify the times we behaved more selfishly than generously.
But take a moment to think about it from the perspectives of your colleagues.
For instance, when that big project at the end of the calendar year went off the rails? Did you step in and say, “I’ve got this. I’ll take care of it”? Or, did you sit quietly because that was more comfortable?
Or, what about when that donor offered to make a generous but “strings-attached” gift in such a way that risked being problematic or unhelpful to your institution in the future? Did you advocate for the institution’s interests and say to the donor, “let’s talk this over a bit more because there may be better ways to structure this gift”? Or, did you advocate for the donor’s interests and say to your institution’s leaders, “I don’t understand why you are not taking this generous gift?”
We often view ourselves as consistently wearing the apron. Sometimes to the point of playing the martyr. But others at work might have a different perspective on our actions. And over time, those who consistently wear the apron from the perspective of others naturally become more influential and typically are offered more advancement in the profession.
In this way, the apron is large enough to serve as your bib as well, if you let it. The bib, though, can’t serve as your apron.
It is too small.